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Badlands are Dynamic Landscapes

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60 year old truck

San Juan Basin, NM
— March 29, 2021

They might seem timeless, but desert badlands are dynamic landscapes that owe their existence to the changes induced by rapid erosion. These badlands in the San Juan Basin of northwest New Mexico are no different. The sediment eroded from steep badlands slopes seen in the background of this photograph is transported downslope in arroyos and in sheetwash floods.

Even though it's a blight on the landscape, anthropogenic detritus can help geologists determine rates of sediment accumulation. For instance, this disused pickup truck is around 60 years old and has been buried by about 1 meter of sediment - quite rapid for a geologic process!

— Kevin Hobbs, NMBGMR Field Geologist